PHD holders not needed in South Sudan, says president Kiir’s press secretary Ateny

By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Law Development Center, Kampala, SEPT/26/2015, SSN;

It was a sad day for me when I heard the Press Secretary of the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny, stating confidently that it was a waste of time to go for PHD while bachelor degrees could do in South Sudan. To him PHD was no longer necessary in South Sudan.

Such statement was really bad and ill-intended. It was not made as a matter of opinion but it was intended as a clear campaign against PHD Holders who Ateny Wek Ateny thought that holding PHD or doctorate in any field was the cause of South Sudanese problems: forgetting that it is misgovernment that is the source of all troubles vexing South Sudan today.

In making such statement, he was indirectly referring to Dr. Riek Machar whom he thinks to be the cause of all the problems of South Sudan. Therefore, the solution according to Wek was to brainwash all aspiring South Sudanese so that they dropped their desire for going for PHD where they would become another Riek Machar in future.

The above statement was made by Ateny Wek Ateny when he was invited to Kampala (Uganda) to preside over the dissolution of Bhar El Ghazal Youth Association. During that day, it happened by coincidence that the Patron of the Association by the name Bol Muorteer was a PHD student from Kampala International University (KIU).

During the introduction, Patron Bol Muorteer was introduced as the “only PHD student from Bhar El Ghazal studying in Uganda.” In addition, Bol was given to address the community of Bhar El Ghazal that was invited in which he annoyed the guest of honor, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny.

As he was giving the speech, Bol said a thing that I thought to be the cause of annoyance to Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny. In his speech he stated that the PHD holders or professionals in general can play a positive role in the country for giving expert’s advice and carrying out researches that the government could use in its national policies and plans, which was a very valid point.

However, Ateny Wek Ateny whose experiences have been defined by 2013 Incident in which Riek, one of the South Sudanese PHD Holders was accused of attempting to overthrow the government of Juba did not make out any sense of what Bol was saying since he believed that Riek was a destructive force in South Sudan because of his doctorate. A view and feeling shared by many South Sudanese officials.

Instead of appreciating the struggle of a young man to PHD level, Ateny Wek was worked up by the statement and as soon as he was called to address the community, he could not waste his time.

He started by narrating the event that took place in Juba in 2013 and then related it to PHD holders whom he accused to be the trouble-makers of South Sudan.

After that he started discouraging the students not only from Bhar El Ghazal but also from all over South Sudan, saying that going for PHD is a waste of time and he also further stated that he would never encourage nor support any person to go for PHD.

That statement alone annoyed me. It annoyed me because at that point I saw South Sudan future being sacrificed at the altar of ignorance, selfishness and lack of proper reasoning due to the lack of proper education.

Such a statement was very childlike and self-centred that “educated men like Ateny Wek Ateny would have not entertained.”

Any reasonable person would dismiss such reasoning within a second. In fact, it was an erroneous statement full of misgiving and prejudice.

What Ateny Wek Ateny did not understand with his high level of education in journalism is the fact that journalism teaches objectivity.

Journalism teaches that any occurrence should be treated on its own facts and generalization of things without any conclusive proof should be avoided by all means.

The fact that Riek Machar and few other South Sudanese who are doctors disturb the government should not make the government of South Sudan or her officials to conclude that PHD is the problem of South Sudan.

Ateny would have thought twice before sacrificing future of South Sudan for his primordial interest of eliminating Riek Machar.

As I have stated in the foregoing sentence, Ateny has effectively sacrificed the future of South Sudan in a way that many students who had believed in what he was saying will never dream of going for PHD, which is bad sign for the young nation like South Sudan.

The damage is already done to South Sudan by Ateny Wek Ateny based on the fact that he is closer to the President, which means that he already intoxicated the president with wrong philosophy and unless the president is an objective man, he will never support Sudanese in pursuing their professions, which in future will deprive South Sudan of expertise that is necessary for its development.

I believe, there is no smoke without fire, the falling value of education in South Sudan has its root in reasoning of Ateny and his associates who share the same view. Ateny does not appreciate the role of experts in development of South Sudan.

The roles of experts such as engineers, journalists, lawyers, teachers and many others and above all, PHD Holders and Professors are prerequisites for the development of any nation because a nation that does not have enough experts in all fields is a nation that is doomed from the start.

South Sudan is one of such nations, which lacks enough experts and would have been the interest of the government of South Sudan not only to encourage South Sudanese in all fields to study to the PHD levels but to also set aside budget that will make it possible for those who are interested to go on to the highest levels with their studies.

As a matter of fact, the development of all nations depends on the correct diagnoses of the inherent problems that tend to hinder the development, which only the experts who are proper persons endowed with the ability and skills to make correct research and give proper recommendations or pieces of advice to the government as to what should be done to progress.

The USA, Germany, Australia, Canada and many other developed nations developed because of good education which produces independent experts. Thus, it means that PHD per se is not the problems or source of the problems of South Sudan, but the source of the problem of South Sudan is the type of education received by some of the PHD Holders currently in South Sudan.

Education that was given to South Sudanese by then was not helpful for the building of South Sudan. The type of education given to South Sudanese looked only at the ends not the means of achieving such ends.

Or South Sudanese were educated to fear of telling the truth and worship the authorities no matter how wrong they might be. In other words, there were no rights of citizens but all rights viewed as privileges granted by the state and could be withdrawal at any time by the state.

Hence, education provided in Sudan by then in calculated values of secrecy, biting and destruction of the imagined enemies in politics and to grab power as soon as the opportunity avails itself.

Therefore, education was seen as a power of destroying one’s opponents, accessing political power and amassing wealth at the expense of the poor and vulnerable.

Thus, instead of looking at PHD Holders as the source or problems by the government of South Sudan, the government should critically analyse type of education that children receive and also should adopt good education because individuals like Riek Machar are not trouble makers because of PHD but because of the type of education that was given to them by the Northern Sudan or the government of Sudan by then.

The government of Sudan by then did not intend education to impart good values in the individuals that encouraged objectivity and service to the community but it was based on subjectivity in which the receiver of it looked at things in the angle of gain and positivity at all the times.

It is the same kind of education that Ateny Wek Ateny has received, which made him to reason the way he did today.

That was the reason in my opinion why on that day Ateny Wek Ateny was not ashamed to utter such a statement and the question that has been haunting me since I heard that faulty statement was:
Did the Press Secretary of the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny, mean what he was saying or was it a slip of the tongue?

Of course, the way he was saying it, he really meant it and there is no doubt about that.

Then, if Wek meant what he was saying, what is going to be the implication of his statement on the development of South Sudan given the fact that the development of any nation depends on the levels of professions the country has?

As already explained above in paragraphs 10, 11, 12 and 13, South Sudan will not develop unless the political leadership encourages education and specialization and at the same time remove people like Ateny Wek Ateny from influencing the policies of the nation and put the people whose interest of the nation is in the heart.

In summary, what I wanted to say is that Ateny Wek Ateny made a very wrong, prejudicial and erroneous statement that any person who has interest of the nation in the heart would have not made.

What Ateny Wek must know is that it is not PHD or Doctorate that is the problem of South Sudan but the kind of leadership and education such leadership received in the past that have had a lot of negative on South Sudan before and after her independence.

All in all, education matters a lot. If children are, for instance, taught that education is for political power and wealth, then they would grow up using education to grab political power and wealth but if they are taught that education is for services then they would use their education all the times to serve the people.

Thus, Ateny should avoid taking effect for the cause. The problem cause by PHD Holders is not PHD but how such PHD was received. I encourage all South Sudanese who might have given thought to Ateny’s advice to rethink their position and start dreaming of becoming doctors in the future and fight against someone like Ateny Wek Ateny.

It is therefore important for all youth of South Sudan to get united and demand an apology from Ateny Wek Ateny for destroying their future within a minute and campaign for good education system to be introduced in South Sudan.

NB// the Author is a South Sudanese Lawyer admitted to the Bar Course Training, at Law Development Centre in Uganda (LDC) and he can be reached through:


  1. johnjerry says:

    My people the acronym PHD stands for public Health Department and the PhD which I assume you are talking about stands for Philosophy Doctorate or Doctor for Philosophy.We need PhD’s where they are most needed when we need them and that is not a crime as it is not for everyone to become a PhD. We in South Sudan have been very lucky to have a highly trained cadre at the time of our Independence than most African Countries during the the 1960s when most African Countries attained their Independent unfortunately our PhD’s do not use their skills properly making people doubt what a PhD can do or not do,but believe me we need them. You do not learn everything from School but from the environment where you live and do business .So Mr.Ateny should know that education is a driving force for development and not just about Riek machar being a PhD.

    • Lavina Lual says:

      Atong Wek is talking like this because many of our jieng brothers and sisters are employed in top positions even without basic high school certificates when thousands of South Sudanese graduates with basic degree and diplomas are doing hard Labour work in the streets of konyokonyo

      What Aten have forgotten is that; it was the PHD Holders like late Dr John Garang who liberated this country together with another life PHD holder Dr Riek who in person switched the idea of late Dr Garang from fighting for one united Sudan to a secession South Sudan devoid of arab rule that we the jienge are carelessly abusing and enjoying today although the days of these jieng mafias are coming to pass in Jesus Name!.

      Dr Riek Machar and late Dr John Garang had fully made use of their PHDs rightly that is why they were able to convince the International Community Professionally through theories of their PHDs and practical war to achieve our independent destiny.

      Aterny Wek is also jealous because he is a university drop out who unfortunately did not complete his basic law degree certificate in London that made him completely irrelevant to be kiir press secretary because he lacks knowledge to deliver as press secretary of the president.

      Ateng should know that there are high professional positions and technical positions worldwide which are only restricted for PHD holders like economic research directorates in central banks and macroeconomic directorates in the ministry of finance that cannot be heed by fake PHDs or fake certificates but authentic and practical PHDs. This is an international required standard.

      Aten will not succeed in this lucrative campaign because the institutional reform is going to consume demons of his likes. He may convince some of his gelweng/gelbeny close clan tribal militias not all jienge. Let the ones who will benefit this country go for PHD studies so that they can come with scientific knowledge for developing this country to close the gap left by late Garang and assist Dr Riek Machar in developing the RSS. Both Late Garang and Dr Riek had made the rightful use of their PHDs during the liberation struggle that is why today we have an independent country because they were able to convince the International community professionally and with scientific proofs by practical guerilla war.
      The likes of Ateny are the kind of people who are hallucinating and rejecting the institutional reform that is coming like a storm to change this country forever because even primary school certificates are going to be checked for fraud free test.


  2. Albino Liet says:

    You might disagree with the press Secretary but if you really understand the history for those PhD holders then you will come to support such a statement from him having say that, you got former vice-president Dr. Riek. Machar.Dr.Lam Akol. Dr. David de, Chand.And the lists goes on and their agendas just fighting for one bone which is leadership and they are not willing to do other things in the young nation. Yes, I would advise all Southern Sudanese not take foot step from these bad politicians which causes losing lives of innocent Southern Sudanese people and more destruction on civilians properties and human suffering in the camps.

    • Nonsense! What about the illiterates like Kiir and Malong who killed thousand Fellow Citizens right at the Capital City of our nation! Not even the Arabs have slaughtered si many of our own. Why about Kuol who killed fellow osutheners like flies, do this have PhD?

      It is only by Jieng Standards that Riek and Lam Akol are bad politicians, If truly so why did Jieng tried to kill Machar? Why house arrest Lam? I guarantee you this mush I will Vote for Machar and Lam over any current Jieng in Juba taring the Country. Having Said that I will Vote for Mabior, Mama Rebeka and the Machar the Youth leader without thinking twice because they are South Sudanese first and last. Not Blind Jiengs like you!

    • GatCharwearbol says:

      Albino Liet,

      This tribal mindset is not going to help the situation. In fact, it is making it harder by day. Instead of hiding behind PhD, why don’t you come out clean and level it as Nuer and Chollo PhD holders since those you mentioned are members of these two communities who do not take shit from your tribe. If it was meant for all PhD holders, be sure to include Dr. John Garang, Dr. Majak Agot, Dr. Lual Deng, Dr. Jok Madut Jok, and the rest you intentionally left out because they are member of your tribe. This fact has to be stated umambigiously so we can take you seriously for it.

    • Eastern says:


      You are just confirming the stupid view held by most SPLA field commanders during the war. Most commanders then detested those who were well schooled – it could be a directive from the C-in-C, time will tell.

      South Sudan needs more Ph.D holders to salvage it from the mess it has been pushed into, we need the likes of Dr Lam, etc to help Dr Macher turn the country around.

  3. Thanks for bringing up this important topic for discussion. To begin with I will not blame Ateny for his misplaced statement because he was not the first and will not be the last government official to express his negative attitude toward south Sudanese holding PhDs. A PhD degree entails that a person has attained the greatest level of competence in his/her field of study be it in education, health, politic, economics, agriculture, engineering, laws, journalism, medicine etc. For that matter a profession does not make a person trouble-maker but an expert in your field. Ateny Wek is a lawyer by profession and he would not have achieved that by himself without a PhD holder who told him at University. again had it not been the PhD holder that molded him, Ateny would not have become a press secretary today in the office of the president. So PhD does not make people bad or become trouble makers. Moreover, will Atenya Wek Ateny describe our late hero Dr. John Garang De Mabior as a TROUBLE MAKER since he had a PhD. I would simply described Ateny’s statement as a miscarriage of the mouth which is part of political survival in south Sudan today.
    Troublemaker is a person who cause problem by inciting others to defy the authority. That person can be Ateny Week, Riek Machar or any other person capable of inciting people to follow him. trouble making is associated with individual character, attitudes and upbringing and has nothing to do with level of education. What I know these days in our country, when people heard the word PhD the feel threatened and put their tails between their legs because those are individuals who climb to the top with their mouth and not with their brain. Ateny has a right to be negative about PhD holders because obtaining a PhD is not as simple as getting a job of press secretary in the office of the president. My advice to brother Ateny is to simply focus on his current job and leave PhD holders alone because such emotional statement are counterproductive. South Sudan is in dire need of expert. currently we have relying foreigners and for how long to we have dependent on foreigners without our own experts?

    My apology if mr Ateny Wek was misquoted. If he indeed said it, then remember brother working in the office of the president is a permanent job, others have said that before you when they were working in that office but ask people like Luka Biong who is now a lecturer in Juba University he will give you some advice.

  4. I am one of those who still do not believe the words that some of our leaders do say out at times… I wonder and cannot imagine what these leaders went to do in school no matter how high level they have gone to! Can someone in the right state of mind made such comments in this current world of the development and technology and education? I just can agree with who ever can call these group of leaders as stupid and bogus! I do not think these are people who came to lead this nation into its prosperity and excelling in this world! They came to bury this nation and all the citizens alive, BUT wait, YOU will NOT SUCCEED! So, those who think they can threaten others or make others to forget their goals, be you reminded humbly that it is a wrong thinking and you are destined to fail and regret! So, please, start getting to your roots and leave us alone in this nation! Go and do something that can benefit you for life! Your current work is not the right one for you as you are not an eloquent speaker to the needed people who are expecting you to speak to them words of hope and trust!

  5. Charles says:

    The problem with our country is not the PhDs but with people like Ateny Wek who are employed in such importatnt positions to spew such rubbish. The problem of South Sudan is the employment of incompetent cadre to serve in our government, based on nepotism, tribal patronage and loyalty. The problem of South Sudan is the fear of educated cadre to run the affairs of the country. I am certainly not surprised by Ateny’s stupid pronouncement and his phobia of PhD holders.

    First of all Riek Machar’s PhD is not in politics but in engineering, and has no relevance to the persuit of his political goals. Same goes to Dr. Lam Akol or late Dr. John Garang. The one skill provided by them having PhDs is the ability to analyze and critque situations. And besides, I disagree with the writer when he singles out Riek as a troublemaker. The issues that were raised with regard to the lack of democratic practice in the SPLM were genuine, and if some folks do not think they are important then that is their problem. Everybody knew that our government was and is being run by incompetent leaders, and public resources were being looted with impunity, corruption is at its height, lawlessness , and lack of service delivery were the order of the day. How can anyone in his/her right mind ignore all these and decide to keep quiet? So does it mean that those with PhDs should be excluded from leadership role? Anyway, who expects anything better coming out of Ateny Wek? Was this not the same Ateny Wek who used to write comments critical of the government in the Citizen paper, and once appointed he completely changed his tune? What has now changed in the government since, that has made Ateny to adore every thing about it? Ateny should just enjoy his ill-gotten job benefits while they last. The reason why we have a failed state is because of the many Ateny Weks being given jobs in the government that they are not fit to hold, simply because they have certain attributes.

    • They think the PhD Holders are trouble causers because they are are blinds leading the blinds, so when the one with eyes (PhD holder) Point out the mistakes or the wrong path they run around Crucify the messenger because they are satisfy in mediocre and hate it when they are told they are wrong thus blame the one who has ability to see things they don’t see.

      If it is not for people like Machar, the Jieng will cary on their Colonial agendas and cleaning the treasury of the nation! Tell me what in the first place is good in this leaders, Nothing! They have not brought me anything! they eating all of it for themselves.

  6. Good Citizen says:

    Hahahha, what a statement! so according to Ateny Wek Ateny, those of Dr. John Garang de Mabor, Dr. Luka Biong, Dr. Akec, Dr. Benjamin Marial, Dr. Adwok Nyaba, and so many other PHD holders, are, in his opinion, useless bunch of social misfits, who have made serious mistake in reaching higher to PHD levels ? In a country where illiteracy rate is exceeding 80%, and desire for education is so immense that many others ended up in fake universities installed by foreigners to drain the south Sudanese ? Why do we love to pursue mediocrity in our country? Who will teach universities if PHD holders are banned from existence? No wonder the university of juba is running out competent lectures because of such attitudes. The students of the same bachelors/masters degrees cannot be employed to teach students of the same level. This is abuse of educational reputation and quality.
    What if it was a student of primary/ secondary school was the one associated with troublemaking, so all primary schools should be banned because an individual of that level was troublemaker? I really don’t get it, Is it irrationality or stupidity or both?

  7. Martin L. says:

    You’re dealing with willful ignorance here; and I’m not surprised to hear a brainless statement from Mr. Ateny! No wonder our country is considered a failed state!

  8. Why are you surprised? This is the mind set of Jieng. The Jieng Like to Generalize although they complain when we lump them in the same group. But truly, Why do you think the Madi where the first to fall victim to the Jieng? It is because of the Rivalry between Lagu and Alier, and Lagus role in Kokora, The Jieng pick in on the Common Madi persons and their land. Why do you think they Kill the Cholos, It is because their hatred for Lam Akol. Why do you think they Kill the Nuer women and Children right at our national capital? It is because of their Hatred for Dr. Riek Machar. They Can not see the difference between Lagu and Madi,Lam and Cholo and RIek and Nuer, Of late, between Bakoso and the Muro and Azendes!

    Now from the above examples, Is it any surprise that such a simplistic mind would not hate PhDs simply because of a PhD Holder Dr RIek???? This speaks volume. If Dr. Riek love Mango, The Jieng would say eating mango makes you a rebel and will outlaw ALL MANGOS! The problem is not the Mango but the Jiengs communal mentality! WHAT A CURSE!

  9. Osman Muhammed Albashh says:

    But South Sudanese never change and make no difference, whether with PHD or not

    • AGUMUT says:

      South Sudan has been looted by North Sudanese in general and particularly by Northern Sudanese Merchants and South Sudan was sleeping when allowed Hyenas to loot our resources for years.We want our private sector back with out discriminations.

    • martin L. says:

      “But South Sudanese never change..” Osman, what do you mean? Isn’t this a stereotypical mindset? Please elaborate!

  10. AGUMUT says:

    There are expensive Professors and PHD’S in the North,but what they have done since their people are leaving their country off like Eritrea. Khartoum itself was designed and built by foreign companies inclusing Osama Bin Laden.

  11. Jim Monyekak says:

    Just imagine a country without PhD holders, academics and scholars! That is a terrible thought. In the absence of such thinkers, half-idiots, academic fraudsters and impostors, college-drop-outs and drinkers have taken over. Ateny should keep quite, if he wants to talk, then he should present to us his certificates (just incase he has any). A country is measured by the number of highly educated and “thinking” Drs and not the number of gun-carrying and trigger-happy fools. But we may have to confer Ateny the honorary doctorate of lies from the University of konyokonyo. Good for nothing big fool. With his pear-shaped bald head and funny-eyes, he looks like some “mongolian half-idiot”.

    • Martin L. says:

      “But we may have to confer Ateny the honorary doctorate of lies from the University of konyokonyo..” Brother Jim, this is hilarious!

  12. Nuer-Another Israel in East Africa says:

    Jim Monyekak,

    No wonder why our country is falling apart. It is being run by Ateny-a good for nothing fool. I hope he is reading these comments… Oops, he probably doesn’t know how to read. May be Salva Kiir will read it for him, oh I forgot, he is as idiot as Ateny and very allergic to reading.

  13. Isaac Deng says:

    Dear Daniel Juol Nhomngek, what Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny uttered in that event confirmed my worse fear that many have said in private about him and his own questionable education credentials. I heard from multiple sources at home and from UK that Mr. Ateny never completed his undergraduate studies in England as claimed. He dropped out when it became clear that he cannot graduate because of his poor academic performance. It is true he used to be a columnist with The Citizen paper, but he never practice journalism profession in England or in South Sudan. He should come out and prove his critics wrong and tell South Sudanese people which university in England he attended and which year he graduated and in what degree. He is just inferior and jealous of PHD holders.

  14. Bol23 says:

    Education opens your mind. Education teaches you how to think, not what to think.
    You can be a subject matter expert in your area of research and yet know nothing about another topic. But with education in your back pack, you will be able to analyze and research and learn about the new topic.
    The government spokesperson could obviously benefit in learning “how to think” and how structure research and presentation.

  15. Ohisio John says:

    We need more Ph.Ds Ateny Wek Ateny !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Pajok says:

    make sure that uneducated man support only his own fellow illiterate, do not be amazing by Ateny Statements to abuse PHD holders of this country.

Leave a Reply to Martin L. Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.